AUGUSTA — A potential Aquinas playoff run met the brick wall of Darlington’s front lines Friday night.
The Tigers used their massive size on both lines to control the ground game and clock, resulting in a 33-14 victory over the Irish in the second round of the Class A Private state playoffs.
Despite entering as a No. 13 seed, Darlington boasted a group of linemen capable of throwing its weight around on the line of scrimmage, and a talented running back behind them.
Tijai Whatley rushed 29 times for 241 yards and a score as Darlington totaled 348 rushing yards. The Tigers used the ground game to control the clock for much of the contest and kept the Irish defense on the field.
Darlington (8-4) advances to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2013 and will be back on the road next Friday, this time traveling to Athens to face Prince Avenue Christian.
When Aquinas (7-4) did have the ball, Darlington’s defensive front caused issues that led to just 83 passing yards and 118 rushing yards for the Irish, with most of that coming in the second half.
Darlington took advantage of a short field twice off muffed punt snaps in the first half. The first came with 5:23 in the first quarter when Whatley scored on an 18-yard run for a 7-0 lead. The second came as time expired in the half on a 23-yard field goal by Alex Liddle for a 13-0 advantage.
The Tigers kept the ball for much of the time in between, adding a 26-yard Liddle field goal at 3:53 in the second. Aquinas threatened late in the second when Michael Brown Jr. returned a kickoff to the 18, but the Irish threw an interception.
Aquinas snapped the shutout when Douglas broke a 46-yard touchdown run early in the third, but Darlington immediately answered when Whatley broke a 62-yard run to set up a short touchdown run by quarterback Griffin Brewster.
A late touchdown run by Douglas cut the deficit to six heading to the fourth.
Another quick response by Darlington, this time on a 33-yard touchdown run by Karl Swiger, set its win in motion. The Tigers added a late score on a 5-yard pass from Brewster to Kelan Stepp to seal the victory.